Kristiansen Fortress, Trondheim

I have a ritual in the morning, and it involves being very quiet.

My six flatmates are all Norwegian, which surprised me. The student housing complex I live in is one city block full of twenty identical three-floor buildings.

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I occupy one small dorm room (with its own tiny bathroom) on one floor with six other people, we share a kitchen and common area.

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The large apartment on the end is a self-contained studio, with its own kitchen. The people who live there are the “others”. I have never seen them, but I know they exist.

I am told that there are other international students in the complex, but that most residents are undergraduate Norwegian students from outside of Trondheim. I was also told, for those who followed my missing bed saga, that the administration used to supply beds for all residents, but they had an infestation of bed bugs two years ago. Wish they would have made that clear when I signed the lease. All it read was that my room was “equipped.” Credit card and IKEA to the rescue. As a sidenote I am terribly glad they supply instructions, or I might not have figured out how to unroll my mattress.

Ah, so that's how you do it.

Ah, so that’s how you do it.

But back to my morning ritual.

Because my flatmates are all in their early twenties, they sleep rather late, until noon, most days, unless I hear one leave for class. They do not, as a rule, wake up early and have leisurely breakfasts, as I like to do. Any food they prepare in the kitchen begins in the late afternoon.

The kitchen is a wide open space, and sound carries down the hall. I am concerned with making noise in the morning, especially as I am now more or less adjusted to my domestic schedule of going to bed around midnight, and waking up around eight, hours before the younglings begin to stir.

In order not to rouse them too early, I sneak into the kitchen soon after waking, and shut the door behind me. That at least muffles the sound. I carefully open drawers for dishes and cutlery, preparing breakfast. The cupboard is eased open, then shut slowly. The plate coaxed out of a shelf and placed on the counter with the minimal of aural disturbance. The toast buttered with a knife that I dare not clang in the sink. I then squirrel away to my room to eat the food and drink my morning coffee as a get ready for the day.

Don’t wake the babies, I laugh to myself.

Mostly, I do this so as not to miss the light. It is rather easy to lounge around, as I have no fixed schedule and my work is done at any time of the day. But if I leave the house around lunchtime, it is already getting dark. I don’t fear for my safety walking after the sun goes down, but I am just now navigating with confidence. Daylight helps. And the pictures are nicer too.

This week, I went to Kristiansen Fortress, on a hill near the city center. Every time I take a long walk a choose a different route. I can now visualize the Trondheim map, and can usually place my movements within it. Learning street names is still a struggle, as there are difficulties grasping the nuances of a non-Latin-based language. Spanish, Italian, and especially Portuguese come rather easily to me, as I speak French. But I have not yet been able to intuit the Scandinavian languages; I am reading the Latin alphabet with the Latin-based language map I have in my head, and it is interfering. The vowels are longer. The emPHAsis is placed on a different sylLAble. Some re-wiring is required.

When you travel alone to foreign countries, you have to get over any shyness at speaking to strangers. I have asked for directions and instructions many times, as there is no signage in English: do you think you can tell the difference between clothes detergent, fabric softener, and other cleaning agents when the brand names are not recognizable, and images on the container are ambiguous or non-existent? Similar problems arise in the grocery store, so I carry a list of translated words indicating my food allergies. That list has now grown with other items: smør = butter; fløte is cream, not coffee cream nor whipping cream, but a thick cream used for baking which most Montreal grocery stores do not sell; kjøtt is meat, but I’m never sure which kind when it often comes processed as dry sausage or lunchmeat. Though, I’ve never been disappointed.

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Horseporcbeef is delicious any way you slice it.

As I now am more or less settled I am looking into traveling North to the arctic circle in order to see the Northern Lights–more on that as I research the cheapest way to make this happen.

In the meantime, here are some photos from my trip to the Fortress.

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The body of water in the background is the Trondheim Fjord.

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A local enjoying the view.

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Cim. Trondheim

On my way there, with the Fortress in the background.

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Down by the water, crossing the bridge into the city center.

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A friendly Norwegian. I miss my own kittehs terribly.

Trondheim City Center

It has been ten days in Norway.

Trondheim is a city built on small rolling hills that rise up from the fjord. The streets are not laid out in a grid pattern, but instead twisting curlicues that creep up and around and down and in between the ridges and slopes. Houses are quaint, nestled in their treed yards, accessed via rounded paths.

It is easy to get lost. I did, once or twice.

Mounts and dips.

Mounts and dips.

Before traveling to a new city, I study the maps. I like to know which way is North, and where I am in relation to everything else. When I arrive I at least have a mental map of my surroundings, if not exact position.

I have spent the better part of the past week walking the city and accumulating things. A pot and a pan. Cooking utensils. Eating utensils. A plate and bowl. Dish soap. Hand soap. Oil, soy sauce, and sugar. Coffee. Cream. Rice. A plastic storage container. A small dish that is oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe. The all important bed, and blankets and a pillow and a shower curtain for my window (it was cheaper). All acquired at Ikea, the grocery stores, and Fretex, which is what they call the Salvation army here in Norway. Still looking for a cheap, all-purpose knife. The Swiss Army tool is working well in the meantime.

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A familiar logo.

I am still quite jet lagged, fighting the impulse to keep my ryhthm: the first several days I was up until 6 am and slept until 2 in the afternoon, missing the brightest light. Instead I force myself out of the house by 9 am, and walk the city. This is a glimpse of rare bright light at the peak of day.

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Outside my dorm room window, about  8:30 am.

Outside my dorm room window, about 8:30 am.

Today I hiked to the ctiy center to present myself at the police station; they handle the immigration process, and NTNU has arranged an all-day appointment for its students. I show up early, and barely have to wait, so it allows me to tour the downtown and take photos.

When I was a young girl I caught a vampire horror movie on TV late one night, likely at a friend’s house. Apart from being scared, I remember that the premise was that two yound men had somehow got caught in a vampire world, where there were no mirrors, and the sun never shined. Even in the daytime, the light was subsumed and muffled. Trondheim winter reminds me of that. The sun never rises high in the sky. It is always at eye level, usually hiding behind a hill just out of eyesight.

On the return I took the photos below. It is quite beautiful, really, my pictures do not do the city justice.

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Norway, the First Few Days

Day 0: After almost a year’s worth of preparation, it’s finally here. I squeeze six months of life into two suitcases and fly out of -16ºC Montreal winter weather and hop on a plane to Trondheim, Norway. It’s exciting. I’m exhausted. And I will miss my cats something awful.

Oh and my family too. Of course.

Day 1: Travel time: twelve hours. It’s 3ºC. I arrive at the private housing for students, pick up my key, and lug my fifty-pound suitcases to the third floor. My dorm room is simple. And missing something.

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There is no bed. A desk, a chair, a wardrobe, but no bed. Just a giant litter box.

I have not slept in twenty-fours hours and there is no bed.

NO BED.

There is, however, a tiny bathroom.

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The administration gives me a small cot for a few days until I buy myself a mattress. I have no pillow or blanket, but I did bring a set of single sheets. I put the flat sheet over the window, the fitted one the cot, stuff the pillow case full of t-shirts, use my long down winter coat as a blanket, and fall into a deep sleep for several hours.

Day 2: I sleep until almost noon, and practically miss the few hours of daylight left here in the Norwegian winter. I have a sore throat and a headache. I also have no food. I lug myself to the grocery store to buy: bananas, tomatoes, an avocado, cheese, cold cuts, bread rolls, coffee, cream, and sugar and it cost me $1362.45.

Not really. But Norway is crazy expensive.

Day 3: I finally meet some flatmates.

The housing is divided into single, double, and small apartment units in buildings on a complex as a big as a city block. My floor is a seven-person “collective” wtith private rooms and bathrooms, and shared living-room/kitchen area.

As I exit my room I see a six-two, blond & blue-eyed, square-jawed twenty-one-ish year old boy-man cooking barefoot in the kitchen. God damn, Norway. Why do all your people look like fucking supermodels?

He didn’t get a bed either. The last guy in my room took his home with him to New York. I’m still 0-1 on the bed front. But the blond-god is pleasant and friendly.

The other flatmates are just as nice. I meet four out of six, get the details of our cleaning duties rotation, and tell them all about my sexy research.

Their English is so good it puts us North Americans to shame. And they keep apologizing for their “poor English.” Just stop it. You are all so far ahead in your education that even your English is better than most native Canadians. I should know, I read their university papers. Some students are excellent, some are lazy, but there’s a good chunk of them that simply were not properly prepared for how to write for university, and are even confused as to the main components and point of an essay. I’ll keep the rants for later posts.

Day 4: I head to the International Students Office to try to fix a registration issue, and have a lovely conversation with the gentleman in charge of the doctoral “free-movers” (as I am classified). He is German, married to a Greek, and went to school in Switzerland. We spoke French. He’s even been to Montreal and spoke fondly of the confusing Quebequois dialect known as joual. Crisse, qu’le monde est p’ti des fois, en?

Mr. German relates an amusing observation on Norwegian culture: “It is fully egalitarian,” he insists. “From Monday to Friday, there is no difference between man and woman. But,” he tilts his head slightly, “when Norwegians drink alcohol on the weekend they allow themselves to flirt.” I do not yet know enough about domestic mating habits to judge the accuracy of his claims. I’ll keep you posted.

On my way home I snap a few shots with the iPhone. As my friend M.H. says, Trondheim is a terribly handsome city.

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Snapping a picture of someone snapping a picture.

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Along my walking path.

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Google maps did not anticipate my route being disrupted.

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Typical homes.

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A pamphlet in my welcome materials.

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About 10:00 am.

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NTNU campus.

Downtwon Trondheim from the NTNU campus.

Downtown Trondheim from the NTNU campus.

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NTNU girls are so bad-ass.

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The light at high noon.

Finally, here’s my makeshift bed. I’d like my mother to know that I have adjustable heating, and am not suffering despite the lack of proper bed and bedding. G’night, Readers. I’ll be dreaming of my IKEA shopping trip tomorrow.

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